Steps to Building Your Estate Plan

by | Jun 23, 2020 | estate planning

build your estate plan

As you get ready to prepare your estate plans, you must first have an idea of what you need to accomplish. Before getting started, you should take the time to identify your estate planning goals. With these goals in mind, you can move forward with each step of your estate plans.

The California estate planning attorneys at Galanti & Copenhaver, Inc., are here to assist you with all of your estate planning needs. Our attorneys have many years of experience with all kinds of different issues that arise throughout the estate planning process. Whatever your estate planning goals are, our attorneys are ready to help. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation to discuss your estate planning needs.

Step #1—Review Your Finances and Determine the Value of Your Assets

Before you can create the best estate plans for your individual needs, you must first know what assets you have to include in your estate planning, and also what debts (if any) to address during the process. To do this, you will need to review all aspects of your finances, including retirement plans, bank and investment accounts, and cryptocurrency accounts, if applicable. 

You should also take note of any personal items you may wish to include in your estate planning, such as cars, valuable jewelry, real estate, and collectible items. Having an idea of the realistic value of these items is also helpful for estate planning. 

In addition to your assets, you will also want to take note of any debts you may have. Some common examples include mortgages, loans, and credit card debt. You can include instructions on how to pay off these debts in your estate plans.

Step #2—Assess Your Estate Planning Goals and Hire an Estate Planning Attorney

Once you have an idea as to what you would like to accomplish through estate planning, and once you have a general idea of what should be included in your estate plans, the next step is to meet with an experienced estate planning attorney.

Your estate planning attorney will be able to help you determine what estate planning tools would be most beneficial for you and your estate. For example, the cornerstone of most estate plans is a will. However, there are many scenarios in which it is beneficial to also create one or more trusts to go along with your will. 

Trusts can have many benefits, such as helping your beneficiaries to avoid the probate court process for the assets within the trust. Your attorney can help you decide what forms of estate planning make the most sense for you.

Want to learn more about estate planning? Check out our page for everything you need to know about the estate planning process.

Step #3—Create an Advance Healthcare Directive

Beyond creating your will and any trusts, there are also other aspects of estate planning to consider. One thing you may want to think about including in your estate plans is an advance healthcare directive.

An advance healthcare directive is a document that you can create, which gives another person the authority to make certain healthcare decisions on your behalf in the event that you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to make these decisions on your own.

In your advance healthcare directive documents, you can also state your wishes regarding how you would like certain healthcare-related decisions to be made if you cannot make them yourself. For example, many people choose to include whether or not they would like extraordinary measures to be taken to prolong their life (like the use of life support machines).

Step #4—Have All Estate Planning Documents Prepared and Finalized

Next, you should make sure that all of your desired estate plan documents have been prepared by your attorney and are done in accordance with your wishes. You should make sure that the terms you want to include in your will and other documents are clearly stated, which will make things easier for your loved ones and beneficiaries.

As part of the estate planning process, you will need to choose someone to serve as the executor of your will. The executor will have the responsibility of finalizing your estate and ensuring the proper distribution of your assets upon your death. If you include a trust in your estate plans, you will need to choose someone to serve as the trustee, or as the successor trustee in the event you have created a living will and have chosen to serve as the trustee during your lifetime. 

Step #5—Store Your Estate Planning Documents in a Safe Place

Once your estate plans have been finalized, you should make sure to store them in a safe location. This location should be accessible to the person you have chosen as the executor of your will. In addition to the estate planning documents, you should also make sure that the executor will be able to access things like real estate deeds, insurance policies, and certificates for annuities, stocks, and bonds. Contact Galanti & Copenhaver, Inc., at 707-538-6074 or fill out our online contact form today to see how we can help you.

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